Can I Travel in the Time of Covid?
The uncertainty and upheaval in the times of Covid-19 has spilled over to the realm of immigration. The President has issued several proclamations concerning the virus and restricting different visas types and travel from certain countries. In addition, travel has been complicated for many non-US citizens, because many US consulates abroad are operating at reduced capacity, if at all, so appointments may not available.
Geographic Restrictions in Place
In the first half of the year, the President began restricting travel to areas of the world suffering from a high Covid-19 infection rate. China, Iran, Brazil, and most of Europe are covered by the travel restrictions. The restrictions state that certain travelers cannot travel from a country listed and must instead wait in a country not listed in the proclamation for a period of 14 days prior to entering the United States. These restrictions do not apply to US citizens and permanent residents and their spouses and/or children.
Visa holders, including students and employment-based visa holders, however, may be restricted even if they were in the United States and only left for a short time. Fortunately, these restrictions only apply to direct travel from a country named in the declaration. The 14-day quarantine period allows travel from a third country to the United States.
Employment Visa Holders Face Additional Restrictions
On June 22, 2020, the President issued a proclamation aimed at reducing the number of people coming to the US on employment-based visas, because of the rising numbers of US unemployment filings in the US and a desire to protect the U.S. labor market. Specifically, H‑1B, H-2B, J, and L visa holders (and their family members) who were outside of the United States and had not been issued their visa or other travel documents (with certain exceptions) on June 22, 2020 may be affected by this proclamation.
On October 1, 2020, a federal judge preliminarily decided that the President improperly issued the proclamation limiting employment-based visa holders. However, the ruling only applies to people who work for the organizations that filed the lawsuit. These organizations are mainly trade organizations that cover many industries and companies that regularly use labor from abroad, such as manufacturing and technology. Right now, the proclamation does not apply to these visa holders.
Any potential travel restrictions should be considered well ahead of time to allow for the delays that we are seeing throughout the system. Travel is not impossible (in most circumstances), but has been complicated and uncertainty abounds. Please reach out if you have questions or need assistance with your upcoming travel.